California Dairy Research Foundation Awarded $85 Million from USDA for Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Project

By Jennifer Giambroni, California Milk Advisory Board

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing up to $2.8 billion in projects selected under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity. Applicants submitted more than 450 project proposals; 70 were selected for funding.

The California Dairy Research Foundation, in partnership with more than 20 other dairy organizations, was among the recipients. CDRF’s grant partners include California governmental organizations, corporations and cooperatives, universities, producer organizations, environmental organizations, and others. The USDA has established an estimated funding ceiling of $85 million for this project to advance climate-smart dairy farming; the final award will be granted in the coming months.

“CDRF is extremely pleased to have received this grant on behalf of the entire collaborative team. The project brings together organizations throughout the value chain to the benefit of our hard-working dairy producers and the environment. We look forward to working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Milk Advisory Board, Dairy Cares, the universities and others to implement this advanced climate-smart ag project in California’s dairy industry,” said CDRF’s Executive Director Denise Mullinax.

Over the next five years, the project, “Partnering to Invest in and Build Markets for California’s Climate-Smart Dairy Producers,” will work to build climate-smart dairy markets and provide financial incentives for California dairy producers to adopt climate-smart manure management practices to reduce both methane emissions and nitrogen surplus and will leverage matching funding from non-federal sources.

“This funding represents the next critical installment and chapter in California’s world-leading dairy methane reduction efforts,” said Michael Boccadoro, Executive Director of Dairy Cares. “On-farm projects will be designed to not only reduce methane but will significantly improve water quality outcomes, ensuring broad benefits for our rural farm communities.

Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities is part of USDA’s broader strategy to position agriculture and forestry as leaders in climate change mitigation through voluntary, incentive-based, market-driven approaches.

“Dairy families in California continue to step up to ensure the agriculture sector contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “The partnership between the State and dairy families has resulted in significant methane emission reductions making California a national and international leader in supporting on-farm livestock methane reductions using climate-smart agricultural management approaches and other environmental benefits, including improved water quality from dairy farms”.

Other partners supporting this project are California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, California Milk Advisory Board, Dairy Cares, California Dairy Campaign, California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, Milk Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation, Sustainable Conservation, Western United Dairies, California Farm Bureau Federation, University of California, Davis, University of California, Riverside, University of California Cooperative Extension, Truterra, California Dairies, Inc., Challenge Dairy Products, Nestlé.

2022-09-21T10:17:24-07:00September 21st, 2022|

World Agricultural Robotics Expo to Launch Oct. 18 in Fresno

Robots to ease labor shortage, climate concerns

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Drought, climate change and labor scarcity are driving farmers to seek new ways of accomplishing farming tasks. Sensors enable more precise application of precious irrigation water. Robotic machinery help plant, weed, prune and harvest, even in triple-digit weather. What other problems can technology solve?

World FIRA, the leading event in Ag Robotics, will launch FIRA USA in Fresno on Oct. 18, to provide autonomous systems and robots to California and North American growers.

Jointly organized between the French association GOFAR, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Western Growers Association and the Fresno-Merced Future of Food (F3) Initiative, FIRA USA 2022 will bring together people with diverse expertise for three days of problem-solving, decision-making and planning.

  • WHAT: World FIRA (International Forum of Agricultural Robotics) to bring together representatives of the agricultural, technology and finance industries for a fresh approach to adapting to climate change and labor issues.
  • WHO: Specialty crop growers, robot manufacturers, scientists, technologists, startup owners and investors
  • WHEN: From Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 8 a.m. to Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. Free registration for journalists at https://avolio.swapcard.com/FIRAUSA22/registrations/Start.
  • WHERE: Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center, 848 M St, Fresno, CA 93721
  • VISUALS: Robots performing tasks such as planting, weeding and harvesting in the field Oct. 20 at 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • SPEAKERS: Karen Ross, Secretary of the CDFA; Ben Alfi, Co-Founder of Blue White Robotics; Erez Fait, Co-founder of Agrinoz; Walt Duflock, Vice President of Vice President of Western Growers; Mark Borman, President of Taylor Farms California; Aubrey Bettencourt, CEO of Almond Alliance; Erez Fait, Chairman and Co-founder of Agrinoze; and more. See full list: https://bit.ly/3B8hGT6

The three-day event will feature ample opportunities to interview panelists, growers, robotics manufacturers and other participants. To learn more about FIRA USA , visit www.fira-agtech.com/event/fira-usa.

2022-09-21T10:10:50-07:00September 21st, 2022|

Wildfire Poses Greater Threat to Cannabis Than Other California Crops

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Wildfires are an increasing threat to people’s lives, property and livelihoods, especially in rural California communities. Cannabis, one of California’s newer and more lucrative commercial crops, may be at a higher risk of loss from wildfire because it is mostly confined to being grown in rural areas, according to new research by scientists in the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley.

“Our findings affirm that cannabis agriculture is geographically more threatened by wildfire than any other agricultural crop in California,” said Christopher Dillis, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center. “This is an issue in almost all major cannabis-producing counties, not only those in Northern California.”

With licensing to grow commercially in the state only since 2018, the $3 billion cannabis industry is already one of California’s top five grossing agricultural commodities (though not included in the California Agricultural Production Statistics because USDA doesn’t recognize cannabis as an agricultural crop). In 2020, California tax revenues from legal cannabis sales amounted to over $780 million.

To assess the risk of cannabis crops being burned by wildfire, the researchers analyzed licensed cannabis farms in 11 cannabis-producing counties. Dillis and his colleagues overlaid CAL FIRE maps of fire hazard severity zones, historic wildfire perimeters and areas likely to experience increased fire activity in the future with the locations of cannabis farms and other crops in Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Monterey, Nevada, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Trinity and Yolo counties. Legal cannabis cultivation is still prohibited in most other parts of the state.

CAL FIRE classifies fire hazard based on vegetation, topography, climate, crown fire potential, ember production and movement and fire history.

The researchers found cannabis fields were located in “high” and “very high” fire hazard zones and closer to wildfire perimeters more than any other crop. About 36% of the cannabis cultivation area, or 986 farms, were in high fire hazard zones and 24%, or 788 farms, were in very high fire hazard zones. Grapes had the next largest percentage of acreage in high (8.8%) or very high fire hazard zones (2.9%), followed by pasture at 4.3% and 1.7%, respectively.

“This work only serves as a starting point for understanding how vulnerable cannabis farms may be to wildfire, as this analysis did not include indirect impacts, such as smoke and ash damage, which may be far-reaching,” Dillis said. “However, we can confidently say that the places where cannabis continues to be grown are at greater risk now, and likely in the future as well.”

For cannabis farms already established in high-risk areas, the authors recommend fire-safety programs to reduce the impacts of wildfire to crops and human health. They suggest traditional wildfire-risk reduction activities, such as managing vegetation and creating fire breaks, but also measures to prevent exposure of farmworkers and crops to wildfire smoke. In addition, they recommend the state pursue options for providing crop insurance to licensed cannabis farmers, which are available for most other agricultural crops through federal programs, but not cannabis.

“In light of the sector’s growing economic importance in the state, the vulnerability of cannabis to wildfire should be considered in future cannabis and rural development policies,” said co-author Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center.

“The legal cannabis market in California is facing substantial headwinds from both market forces and a burdensome regulatory environment,” Grantham said. “This study shows that cannabis agriculture is uniquely exposed to wildfire impacts, which presents yet another challenge for licensed cultivators in the state.”

The Cannabis Research Center is currently conducting a statewide survey of licensed cannabis cultivators to better understand the impacts of wildfire on crops, infrastructure and farmworkers. The survey is funded through a grant from California’s Department of Cannabis Control.

The study “The threat of wildfire is unique to cannabis among agricultural sectors in California” is published in Ecosphere and authored by Dillis, UC Cooperative Extension specialist Van Butsic, postdoctoral researchers Diana Moanga and Ariani Wattenberg, graduate student Phoebe Parker-Shames and Grantham.

2022-09-08T08:22:50-07:00September 8th, 2022|

Electric Tractors Reduce Carbon Emissions at UC ANR Research and Extension Centers

Zero-emission tractors perform many tasks of diesel tractors, without noise or exhaust

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

The University of California, a national leader in sustainability, has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025. To reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has replaced several of its diesel-powered tractors with electric tractors at its research and extension centers.

Seven of the nine UC research and extension centers – Intermountain located in Siskiyou County, Hopland in Mendocino County, Kearney and West Side in Fresno County, Lindcove in Tulare County, Desert in Imperial County and Hansen in Ventura County – started using the Solectrac e25 in July. The researchers plan to share what they learn from using the electric tractors.

“Charging is easy, we are using a standard 110V connection, no charging station needed,” said John Bailey, director of the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center. “For faster charging, you can use a 220V connection – again, no charging station needed, just a regular receptacle – but we haven’t gone there yet.”

The electric tractor runs for about five hours, depending on the type of use and the speed, on a charge.

“We will use the electric tractor to mix the soil for planting trees in the greenhouse,” said Ashraf El-kereamy, director of UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in Exeter, which focuses on citrus research. “Also, for pulling the trailer with the fruit bins during harvest, it will be good as it does not emit any gases.”

The electric tractor is being used to move materials in the loader at UC Hopland REC. “It has worked well for this, functioning similarly to a standard diesel tractor,” said Bailey.

“We have also used it to clean our sheep barn, scraping the pens to get ready for lambing season,” Bailey said. “This involves pushing or dragging straw bedding and manure. The tractor functions well in tight spaces due to its compact size.”

Bailey learned one downside is that the front end is a little too light, making it difficult to generate enough downward pressure with the loader to effectively scrape the floor without reducing the front wheel traction.

“We are planning to add some weight to the front, a standard practice with tractors to increase traction. The tractor has the mounting to enable this so it should not be a big deal,” Bailey said. “Our operators really appreciate the lack of noise and exhaust, especially when working in the barn or in tight spaces.”

The small electric tractor is also being used in tight places at the UC Intermountain Research and Extension Center in Tulelake.

“The tractor that we obtained from the company is too small for the majority of our farm needs,” said Rob Wilson, Intermountain REC director. “We purchased a small box scraper and rototiller for the tractor and we are using it around our facility grounds. We also use it out in the field in tight spaces that are too small for our larger tractors to operate.”

“The tractor is quiet, powerful for its size and operates very similar to the diesel-powered tractors with regard to the controls, hydraulics and three-point assembly. The tractor also has a lot of torque and speed.”

Annemiek Schilder, director of UC Hansen Agricultural REC, added, “I think another advantage is that the tractors can go very slowly, which is helpful for some uses such as harvesting.”

The researchers will continue to evaluate the electric tractors throughout the year.

“Our main usage will come in the spring, mowing around our headquarters and on roadsides,” Bailey said. “We are purchasing a 4-foot flail mower that can mount to the rear PTO, but won’t really put it into use until April.” The power take-off, or PTO, is the shaft that transfers power from the tractor to the attachment.

Other benefits of electric tractors include no engine oil to change and no diesel fuel.

“If the farmer already has solar, they will see close to zero fuel charges,” Bailey added. “Even without solar, their fuel costs should be reduced depending on local electrical cost. Also, the engine only has one moving part compared to dozens in a diesel tractor so maintenance costs should be reduced significantly, something that is proving true in electric cars.”

The Solectrac e25 tractors each cost $27,999 and the optional loader was about $4,000.

The California Air Resources Board is offering incentives to buy zero-emission equipment through its Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions Program. FARMER provides funding through local air districts for agricultural harvesting equipment, heavy-duty trucks, agricultural pump engines, tractors and other equipment used in agricultural operations.

2022-08-30T10:21:20-07:00August 30th, 2022|

Less Water, More Watermelon: Grafting Can Help Growers Yield More

UC Cooperative Extension advisor tests ancient technique, new to California melons

By Mike Hsu, UC ANR

As growers across California navigate severe drought, supply-chain challenges and rising inflation, reducing inputs has become an existential necessity. And for watermelon growers, a new twist on a thousands-year-old practice is showing real promise.

In the summer of 2018, watermelon growers brought a pressing problem to Zheng Wang, who had recently joined University of California Cooperative Extension as the vegetable crops and irrigation advisor for Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties.

Growers were seeing an increasing number of their cartons rejected by supermarkets and other buyers because of the melons’ inconsistent quality, and Wang wondered if the ancient technique of grafting would help the state’s melon growers, who plant about 10,000 acres of the crop each year.

Although California is the No. 3 watermelon-producing state in the U.S. (behind Florida and Georgia), there has been relatively little research on the melon across the state.

“Watermelons seem to have attracted not too much attention compared to other cucurbits, both Extension- and research-wise,” said Wang.

Fresh from his postdoctoral work at The Ohio State University on grafting fresh market tomatoes, Wang knew that vegetable growers understood the theoretical benefits of grafting, which combines a scion (the above-ground part of a plant) with the sturdy rootstock of a related plant.

But watermelon growers needed to make sure the added expense of using grafted plants would pay off. They were looking for science-backed evidence that the technique could actually reduce costs overall, while maintaining or boosting productivity.

“Sometimes as farmers we want to test a new cultural practice or crop product,” said David Jarrett, field manager at Van Groningen & Sons, who grows watermelons in the San Joaquin Valley. “A person like Zheng can set up a meaningful experiment and he has the tools for qualitative and quantitative analysis; Zheng knows how to measure a hunch and assign it a verifiable number measuring success.”

In his first trials in partnership with growers in 2019, Wang tested whether they could plant fewer watermelon plants, spaced at greater distances apart, while producing a stable yield of high-quality melons. The idea was that grafted plants, which are more vigorous and grow larger leaves and wider canopies, would produce consistently marketable melons that could be picked up to seven or eight times during an extended harvest season.

“That way we can make one plant equal ‘two,’” explained Wang, noting that non-grafted plants tend to produce only two or three picks of good melons, with quality declining rapidly afterward.

Grafting shows ‘a lot of potential for the future’

After two years of trials, the growers determined, with strong confidence, that watermelons planted 4-5 feet apart could produce a yield equal to – or surpassing – that of plants 3 feet apart (the standard for their non-grafted counterparts).

According to Wang, growers reported that, on average, their successfully grafted fields produced 15% to 25% more watermelons than non-grafted fields per acre, while using 30% fewer plants and the same amount of water and fertilizers.

With the potential for greater profitability, grafting could be a major boon during a particularly challenging time for growers.

“California agriculture is stressed competing for finite resources such as land, water, fertilizer and other safe but effective chemical tools, but outside of this realm we can improve some of our crops by grafting,” Jarrett explained. “Just as many tree crops are grafted, we are learning that other crops can be successfully grafted too; the goal is to create a heartier plant, which may grow better in marginal soils with reduced inputs.”

Confidence in the technique has led to a significant increase in the planted acreage of grafted watermelon across California – from less than 250 acres in 2018 to more than 1,500 acres in 2021. At the same time, growers have adopted 4 or 5 feet as the new “standard” spacing for their watermelon plants, enabling them to reduce their populations while maintaining or boosting yield.

“Using grafting has kind of opened a new channel in the watermelon world, and for all vegetable production in California,” Wang said.

Next up for Wang is testing various combinations of scions and rootstocks. This year, he began variety trials with rootstocks of various cucurbit family members (like hybrid squashes, Citron and bottle gourd), with hopes of producing results that watermelon growers could use to decide the best options for their local conditions.

“In sum, there are a lot of unknowns – but also a lot of potential for the future,” he said.

2022-08-24T11:25:54-07:00August 22nd, 2022|

FDA 2020 Residue Monitoring Report Results

Consumers Can Choose Organic and Conventional Produce With Confidence

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program Report for Fiscal Year 2020. Since 1987, the report has summarized findings from the program’s annual monitoring of human and animal foods in the U.S.

The FDA found that 96.8% of domestic foods were compliant with the pesticide tolerances set by the EPA. No pesticides were found in 40.8% of the domestic samples.

The industry’s historical high compliance rate demonstrates its commitment to consumers’ health and safety. It is clear from this report that consumers can choose fresh fruits and vegetables with confidence. It also underscores that no one and no group should promote false rhetoric in an effort to discourage consumers from eating healthy and safe produce.

According to the FDA, “The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the FDA’s sample collection and analysis for this year’s report. Both human food and animal food samples collected in FY2020 were smaller than FY2019. Despite the obstacles, results from samples collected and analyzed demonstrated compliance rates similar to what has been shown in previous years.”

Through its Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program, the agency ensures that FDA-regulated foods comply with pesticides safety levels or tolerances set by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health. The EPA is responsible for establishing and enforcing those tolerances for domestic foods shipped in interstate commerce and foods imported into the United States.

The Alliance for Food and Farming recommends consumers who still have concerns about residues to just wash your fruits and veggies. FDA states that washing produce often removes or eliminates any minute residues that may be present.

Read, learn, choose – but eat more organic and conventional fruits and vegetables for a longer life!

2022-08-15T14:19:12-07:00August 15th, 2022|

HMC Farms Announces Autonomous Drone Harvest Pilot Program

By HMC Farms

HMC Farms has partnered with Tevel Aerobotics Technologies to pilot their drone harvesting system utilizing Flying Autonomous Robots. Each robot has the ability to fly, locate fruit, harvest and place the fruit all on its own with no human interaction required.

HMC Farms has a reputation for pursuing cutting edge ag technology. Drew Ketelsen, Vice President and Farm Manager, has a background in civil engineering which gives him a unique perspective on farming and technology. He and Jon McClarty, President of HMC Farms and Drew’s brother-in-law, work together to stay updated on the latest developments and test various forms of ag tech in order to determine the best fit for their farms.

Ketelsen attributes HMC’s high density stone fruit planting system with the ability to utilize drone harvesting. He says, “The years of work we’ve put into cultivating high density orchards are paying off as we implement technology like Flying Autonomous Robot harvesting. We have successfully harvested peaches, nectarines and multiple colors of plums using drones this summer. This project is still in an early stage, but the future potential is very exciting.”

Autonomous harvest options have great potential to fill a crucial need in the agricultural community, which has notoriously dealt with labor shortages over the years. In places like California’s Central Valley, this technology also may help with harvest during periods of extreme heat, as summer temperatures can often reach well above 100 degrees for many days in a row, right at the peak of stone fruit harvest.

2022-07-26T09:40:59-07:00July 26th, 2022|

Famed UC Davis Apiculturist Eric Mussen Passes

Honey Bee Authority Dr. Eric Mussen Passes

Celebrated honey bee authority Dr. Eric Carnes Mussen, an internationally known 38-year California Cooperative Extension apiculturist and an invaluable member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, died Friday, June 3 from liver cancer. He was 78.

Dr. Mussen, a resident of Davis, was admitted to a local hospital on May 25. He was diagnosed with liver cancer/failure on May 31 and returned to the family home June 1 for hospice care. He passed away the evening of June 3.

“Eric was a giant in the field of apiculture,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “The impact of his work stretched far beyond California.”

Dr. Mussen, known to all as “Eric,” joined the UC Davis entomology department in 1976. Although he retired in 2014, he continued his many activities until a few weeks prior to his death. For nearly four decades, he drew praise as “the honey bee guru,” “the pulse of the bee industry” and as “the go-to person” when consumers, scientists, researchers, students, and the news media sought answers about honey bees.

“Eric’s passing is a huge loss,” said longtime colleague Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology. “He was always the go-to person for all things honey bee. He worked happily with hobbyists, commercial beekeepers and anyone just generally interested.”

Colleagues described Mussen as the “premier authority on bees and pollination in California, and one of the top beekeeping authorities nationwide,” “a treasure to the beekeeping industry,” and “a walking encyclopedia when it comes to honey bees.”

Norman Gary, a noted UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology who served as a faculty member from 1962 to 1994, described Eric as “by far, the best Extension apiculturist in this country.”

“Eric’s career was so productive and exciting that a book would be required to do justice for his many contributions to his profession as extension entomologist specializing in apiculture, better known as beekeeping,” Gary said. “His mission basically was facilitating productive and reciprocal communication between beekeeping researchers at UC Davis, commercial beekeeping as it affects California’s vast needs for the pollination of agricultural crops, providing helpful information to hobby beekeepers, and educating the general public concerning honey bees. His great professional successes in all areas have been recognized around the world. He has received numerous awards, especially from the beekeeping industry. He was by far the best Extension apiculturist in this country!”

“In addition to professional duties, he enthusiastically tackled other projects for entomology faculty,” Gary said. “For example, he critically reviewed most of my publications, including scientific papers, books, and bulletins. He worked diligently to help create the Western Apicultural Society and later served as president. (Mussen served six terms as president, the last term in 2017.) I especially appreciated his volunteering to moderate a video that historically summarized and recorded my entire 32-year career at UC Davis. And his tribute would not be complete without mentioning that he was one of my favorite fishing buddies.”

2022-06-14T10:20:05-07:00June 14th, 2022|

New Report Finds Over 35,000 Local Jobs Rely on Westlands Water District Agricultural Production

Water Restrictions Have Wide Reaching, Negative Impacts on Farms, Local Communities, and the Nation

By Westlands Water District

A new analysis highlights the significant, positive economic impact that agricultural production within the Westlands Water District has on the State of California and the country as a whole. The Economic Impact of Westlands Water District (Study), conducted by Michael A. Shires, Ph.D., outlines the far-reaching consequences of inadequate and unreliable water supplies on economies and communities.

The Study analyzes the economic impacts of the agricultural activities occurring within Westlands Water District. The Study also investigates how challenges such as water supply restrictions, climate change, inflation, supply chain disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic can seriously threaten the quantity and quality of food available to the people of this nation. Taken together, these challenges underscore the important role that California’s agricultural production plays in national security and why protecting America’s domestic food production is essential.

According to the Study, on an annual basis, agricultural production within Westlands Water District is responsible for generating over $4.7 billion in economic activity and supporting over 35,000 jobs across the regional economy. These jobs produce the wages, tax revenue, and consumer spending that drive economic activity throughout the state.

“The farms within Westlands Water District are significant suppliers of fresh produce and other agricultural products both to the nation and the world. Activities in Westlands directly and indirectly employ and support tens of thousands of households and creates billions of dollars of economic value,” said Dr. Shires. “While there are a range of complex, modern policy and economic crises that may influence the level of that production, there is no real domestic alternative for production of these critical agricultural products.”

The farms in Westlands and the associated share of the country’s food supply, are at risk. While farms in Westlands continue to produce billions in economic activity, support communities in the San Joaquin Valley, and employ thousands of farmworkers and growers, we recognize that this production – and the livelihoods of those behind it – is highly dependent on water availability,” said Tom Birmingham, General Manager of the Westlands Water District.

When farmers do not have adequate water supplies, they are forced to make difficult decisions. They fallow otherwise highly productive land, and, in some instances, abandon planted acres because they lack water to continue irrigating their fields. Those decisions have widespread impacts. The Study found a “striking” correlation between “poverty levels in [Fresno and Kings] counties…with the shortfalls in water deliveries from the [Central Valley Project] to the Westlands Water District.” Poverty rates in these two counties are directly related to the water supply available to farmers in the District – when the District receives little to no water, more people in those counties suffer from poverty, and when the District receives a higher water allocation, the counties’ economic stability improves.

Further, with no domestic alternative for the agricultural contributions of the region, the economic impacts and negative implications of an inadequate water supply extend well beyond the local community. “At a time where instability around the globe has had significant impacts on the entire continent’s access to core crops like wheat, corn, and sunflower oil – on top of rising inflation and fuel costs – protecting the Nation’s domestic agricultural production capacity is fundamental to the security of the United States,” said Tom Birmingham.

“The bottom line is that much of the food in your pantry, refrigerator, and on your dinner table continues to be available because farms in California continue to provide some 80 percent of the nation’s supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. If this domestic production is curtailed, it will make the nation dependent on foreign sources which are, in turn, much more subject to supply chain, transportation, and quality problems,” Dr. Shires said. “If water supplies continue to be uncertain and volatile, there will be irreparable harm to already disadvantaged communities in the region and the acreage available to continue growing this produce will be significantly constrained.”

To read the entire report, visit: wwd.ca.gov/news-and-reports/economic-impact/

2022-03-16T10:50:59-07:00March 16th, 2022|

Dry January Conditions Return Snowpack to Near Average Levels

By Department of Water Resources

The Department of Water Resources conducted the second snow survey of the season at Phillips Station. Following a dry January, the manual survey recorded 48.5 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 19 inches, which is 109 percent of average for this location for this date. The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR’s water supply forecast. Statewide, the snowpack is 92 percent of average for this date.

“We are definitely still in a drought. A completely dry January shows how quickly surpluses can disappear,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The variability of California weather proves that nothing is guaranteed and further emphasizes the need to conserve and continue preparing for a possible third dry year.”

Snowmelt during January has been minimal. However, with little to no accumulation of snow during January, snowpack levels are closer to average February 1 conditions, meaning that a return of winter storms in the Sierra Nevada is needed during February and March to remain at or above normal levels.

Regionally, the Southern Sierra snowpack is not faring as well as the Northern Sierra. Water supply forecasts for the south San Joaquin Valley are below average due to the lack of rain and snow in this region.

“These dry January conditions demonstrate the importance of continuing to improve our forecasting abilities and why these snow surveys are essential,” said Sean de Guzman, Manager of DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. “While we always hope for a generous snowpack, DWR’s ongoing investments in forecasting techniques will help the state better prepare for both drought and flood conditions.”

In light of last year’s poor runoff, DWR has increased its efforts to improve climate and runoff forecasting by strengthening its collaboration with partner agencies and academia and by investing in proven technologies to improve data collection and hydrologic modeling. One example is DWR’s investment in remote snowpack measurements through the Aerial Remote Sensing of Snow program by partnering with Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc. (ASO). Data from ASO has proven to be the most accurate assessment of snowpack conditions that, when coupled with newer, sophisticated runoff models, will improve runoff forecast accuracy.

Although early season storms helped alleviate some drought impacts, a lack of storms in January has underscored the need for Californians to continue focusing on conservation. Most of California’s reservoirs are still below average, and groundwater supplies are still recovering. California still has two months left of its typical wet season and will require more storms in those months to end the year at average.

DWR conducts four media-oriented snow surveys at Phillips Station each winter near the first of each month, January through April and, if necessary, one additional in May.

2022-02-02T13:07:34-08:00February 2nd, 2022|
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